Apple works hard to improve HomeKit features and the Apple Home app every year. You can use it to control compatible devices and even create automations that take your smart home to the next level.
Some of the newest Apple HomeKit features include Face Recognition, Activity Zones, Adaptive Lighting, and suggested automations.
We’ll give you an overview of all the latest HomeKit features below.
- These iOS 13 changes make Bluetooth and Wi-Fi much easier and more private
- HomeKit troubleshooting: When your Philips Hue lights don’t work
- 13 small but incredibly useful changes and features in iOS 13
All the new HomeKit features in iOS 14
Apple released a small handful of exciting HomeKit features with the update to iOS 14 and iPadOS 14. These new features aim to make your smart home even smarter by introducing Activity Zones, Face Recognition, Adaptive Lighting, and automation suggestions.
As always, to use these features you need to set up your smart home with compatible accessories. These might include color-changing lightbulbs, smart security cameras, or a smart thermostat.
Once you’re all set up, here are the new HomeKit features you can enjoy with iOS 14 and later.
Smart security cameras make it possible to check in on your home while you’re out and about. You could even find out who’s knocking at the door without going downstairs.
With Apple HomeKit’s Activity Zones, these smart cameras get even smarter by only paying attention to the areas you tell them to.
Activity Zones let you mark out a particular zone for the camera to watch for movement in. If anything happens outside of that zone, HomeKit ignores it, avoiding unnecessary notifications.
Imagine, for example, the camera outside your house shows your front garden, a path leading to your house, and a road at the end of the path. With Activity Zones, you can tell HomeKit to focus only on the path and the garden. That way it ignores any traffic that drives past on the road.
You can already use Face Recognition in the Photos app on your iPhone or iPad. With the new HomeKit updates, you can use the same Face Recognition software to find out who’s knocking on your door.
As always, Apple takes your privacy seriously. That means Face Recognition takes place on your device, with none of the information going to Apple or third-party companies.
You can easily tag people your camera recognizes and choose who you want to receive notifications for and who you don’t.
Color-changing, smart lightbulbs are one of the most common smart home accessories. With the new features in HomeKit on iOS 14 and iPadOS 14, those lightbulbs get even more useful with the help of Adaptive Lighting.
Adaptive Lighting makes your lightbulbs change hue throughout the day. Experience warmer tones in the morning, white light through the middle of the day, and reduced blue light in the evening.
Apple designed this pattern to mimic the natural light of the sun. So you should find it helps you wake up in the morning, feel productive in the day, and wind down at night.
All that without ever needing to adjust the lighting yourself.
Setting up automation in the Home app is one of the best ways to make the most of your smart home accessories. You can use automation to start a morning routine, automatically lock the door and turn off the lights when you go out, or start playing music over dinner in the evening.
If you’re new to Apple HomeKit, you might not know how to get started with automations, which is where automation suggestions come in.
As you connect new accessories to the Apple Home app, HomeKit suggests automations you might like to try. All you need to do is choose an automation from the suggestions and HomeKit creates it for you.
Home status controls
A couple of minor updates to HomeKit in iOS 14 make it easier than ever before to access your favorite smart home controls. You’ll find these additions in the Control Center and in the Home app itself.
In the Control Center, iOS 14 adds two new controls for suggested Home controls beneath the volume and brightness sliders. These buttons offer quick access to your most-used HomeKit controls, including anything you saved as a favorite control in the Home app.
When you open the Home app itself, a row of home status icons appears at the top of the screen. These icons adjust to intelligently predict what you might need to see. Tap any of them to quickly control your smart home accessories.
You might see prompts to close the garage door, lock the doors, and turn off the lights as you head out the house.
All the new HomeKit features in iOS 13
If you’re brand new to the Home app and Apple HomeKit accessories, you should also check these out older features Apple introduced with previous iOS updates.
Here are the HomeKit features Apple introduced with the release of iOS 13 and iPadOS back in 2019. All of them are still available in the Home app in iOS 14, with even more devices supporting these features than before.
HomeKit Secure Video
Apple has increasingly expanded its focus on privacy, and that continued with the introduction of HomeKit Secure Video in iOS 13. This upgrade promised to make smart cameras more secure and private than ever before.
HomeKit Secure Video lets HomeKit automatically save video feeds from your smart cameras in iCloud without compromising your privacy.
When you connect a smart camera that supports HomeKit Secure Video, it automatically saves movement from your video feed. HomeKit then encrypts this video and uploads it to iCloud for safekeeping for up to 10 days.
Once it’s in iCloud, only you or your invited guests can watch the video. Not even Apple can access HomeKit Secure Video feeds. This seems like it might be Apple’s reaction to the news that other camera security companies allowed employees to view private feeds of their customers.
Here are some other quick facts about the platform:
- No subscription fee: You don’t need to pay a monthly fee to store HomeKit Secure Video in iCloud. Apple provides space for 10 days of recording completely free. However, you do need an existing 200GB or 2TB iCloud storage plan.
- It doesn’t use your iCloud storage: Despite the fact that you need to a 200GB or 2TB storage plan, HomeKit Secure Video doesn’t actually count toward your iCloud storage usage.
- You may not need a new camera: Not all cameras work with HomeKit Secure Video. But popular manufacturers like Eufy, Logitech, Netatomo and Robin Telecom have announced support. You may also be able to upgrade your existing camera to use it.
Security cameras aren’t the only smart home device Apple upgraded with iOS 13. Apple also made some major changes to smart router technology, all with increased privacy in mind.
A HomeKit-enabled router automatically creates a firewall between the different devices on your network. That makes it less likely for a single device in your household to become part of a large-scale botnet attack.
If one device gets compromised, all the others should still be safe and secure.
You can choose which smart home accessories can communicate with each other and which ones can communicate with third-party servers over the Internet.
Unfortunately, existing routers can’t support HomeKit. But LinkSys, Eero, and Charter Spectrum have all announced their own HomeKit-enabled routers you can upgrade to instead.
More minor updates
In addition to HomeKit Secure Video and HomeKit-enabled routers, Apple also made a slew of other changes to its home automation platform with iOS 13. These changes included updates to the Home app and the underlying HomeKit API.
- Automation updates: Users can now add other devices to automations, including Apple TV and AirPlay 2-enabled speakers.
- Revamped Home app: Apple introduced visual changes to the Home app, as well as some minor tweaks to various menus and interfaces. Colored lights and thermostats have a revamped control screen. And devices with multiple sensors now group those sensors into a single category. Home hubs, including both first- and third-party hubs, are now also grouped together into a single category.
- Support for Siri Shortcuts: The Shortcuts app, which became native in iOS 13, offers a variety of different HomeKit-related tasks. These include setting up automation to trigger when iOS runs specific Shortcuts. You can, for example, create an automation that turns on your lights and plays your morning news when you hit snooze on your alarm.
- Contextual CarPlay additions: Users can add some HomeKit actions to CarPlay. One notable example is to create a scene that opens the garage door when you arrive at home.
- Scene suggestions: Similar to the way Shortcuts suggests routine automations, the Home app now suggests scenes based on your usage and the devices you have connected to HomeKit.
HomePod firmware updates
While Apple’s HomePod isn’t required to create a HomeKit-enabled home, it’s probably a popular automation hub for those deep in the Apple ecosystem.
Because of that fact, it’s worth going over some of the latest upgrades to the HomePod firmware since iOS 13.
- Multi-user support: HomePod now supports multiple user profiles and can tell different people apart by their voice. And yes, you can create distinct preference profiles based on that.
- Handoff updates: HomePod works more seamlessly with other Apple devices. Handoff audio playback or phone calls to a HomePod just by tapping the top of the smart speaker with an iPhone.
- HomeKit and Shortcuts integration: Add HomePod to HomeKit scenes and automations, create distant workflows with Shortcuts, and view your controls or currently playing content in the Home app.
How to get the latest Apple HomeKit features
Apple typically releases all the new HomeKit and Home app features with major iOS and iPadOS updates. These usually come every September. So all you need to do is keep your iPhone or iPad updated each fall to get the latest features.
That said, you might also need to upgrade your HomeKit accessories to ensure they’re compatible with the newest features. For example, Adaptive Lighting only works with smart bulbs that can change color.
The requirements vary from feature to feature, so it’s best to check Apple’s website to see the requirements for a particular feature you want to use. Generally speaking, the latest HomeKit supported devices should offer everything you want.
If any of your HomeKit accessories aren’t working, take a look at our HomeKit troubleshooting guide to find out how to fix them.